Applying for scholarships can be an intimidating process, and with billions of dollars in scholarship money out there, it’s no wonder that students try to find every possible opportunity to get their hands on some of that money. But with so many opportunities out there, it’s hard to tell which ones are legitimate and which ones aren’t – and you can’t afford to waste time applying for scholarships that will likely lead nowhere! Here are 10 things you should know before applying for any scholarship program.
Top 10 Things to Know Before Applying for a Scholarship
1) Who can apply?
Not all scholarships are available to everyone. In fact, some of them aren’t even intended for U.S. citizens. Be sure you know whether or not your school is eligible, and don’t assume that because you live in America, you can apply to every scholarship offered on our list. You may be surprised by how many require citizenship from certain countries or have other restrictions. You should also make sure you’re aware of what types of students each scholarship is designed for—are they only awarded to incoming freshmen? Are they open only to graduate students? If so, it might be best to look elsewhere. When to apply?: One of the most common mistakes people make when applying for scholarships is waiting until just before their deadline. The earlier you start looking, especially if you plan on applying for several different awards, the better off you’ll be. It will give you more time to get organized and research options that fit your needs. It will also help ensure that no matter what happens with one application, there will still be plenty of others out there waiting for you. And if someone else beats you to it? No worries! There are plenty more where those came from
2) When should you apply?
Your chances of receiving a scholarship increase with each application you submit, so apply early and often. Many scholarships have their own timeline, while others open on October 1st or January 1st and close six months later. If there’s no deadline set in stone, apply at least four months before you need funds. The sooner you apply, the sooner your potential scholarships can be reviewed by selection committees! Be sure to check out our list of awards that are still accepting applications. If you plan to attend college outside of your home country, make sure you understand what kinds of scholarships are available where you want to study. For example, if you’re an American student who wants to study abroad in Germany, there might not be many scholarships available specifically for Americans. However, if you wanted to study computer science at one of Germany’s top universities (e.g., TU Berlin), then they might have plenty of options just for German students—and it doesn’t hurt to ask! You never know unless you ask!
3) How do you apply?
Finding and applying for scholarships is an excellent way to fund your higher education—if you know what you’re doing. Here are 10 things you should know before filling out an application.
- Don’t rush: The deadlines may seem far away, but many scholarship applications require several weeks of lead time, especially if you need to submit supporting documents like transcripts or letters of recommendation. You might even have to schedule an interview or essay contest with a judge, so plan ahead!3
- Find information about every possible source: Search Google for scholarship search engine [your city] or [your field] scholarships [your city]. Most schools also maintain databases that can help you identify sources specific to your interests.
- Get started early: Even if you don’t apply until junior year, it pays to start researching and collecting information as soon as possible. There are hundreds of thousands of scholarships available, so take advantage of free resources while you can.
- Ask around: Your teachers, counselors, coaches and parents all have valuable experience in finding money for school; ask them where they found their own scholarships and which ones they recommend.
- Make sure you qualify: Many scholarship programs require students to meet certain requirements (like maintaining a certain GPA) in order to be eligible for funding; make sure you read over these details carefully before sending in your application.
- Apply for everything you think you might qualify for: This may sound obvious, but we’ve heard from plenty of people who say they only applied to one or two scholarships. You never know how much money could be on the line—so make sure you exhaust all possibilities!
- Double-check dates and deadlines: Nothing will derail your efforts faster than missing a deadline. Remember to double-check due dates when you collect information from different sources; often, multiple websites will publish different dates for similar opportunities.
- Be flexible: Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, including small grants offered by local organizations or large national awards worth thousands of dollars per semester. If you want to maximize your potential, consider applying for any grant or award that fits within your budget.
- Don’t stop after high school: College isn’t just four years of undergrad work; there are graduate degrees, professional certificates and other educational opportunities available after graduation too. Consider continuing your studies after high school if you have room in your budget—and don’t forget to look into scholarships specifically designed for adult learners!
- Don’t give up: Getting turned down for a scholarship doesn’t mean you won’t get funded. Some of our readers told us they applied to over 100 scholarships and didn’t receive any awards, but that persistence paid off: All of them eventually received at least one college-funding award. So keep trying—and remember to celebrate your successes along the way!
4) What is the deadline?
Deadlines are one of your greatest weapons when it comes to scholarship applications. Make sure you know when applications are due and plan accordingly. You can’t apply if you miss it, so get organized. A lot of scholarships have specific criteria that must be met in order for them to consider your application—which is why deadlines are so important. There’s no second chance at applying if you don’t submit your application on time!
5) Where can you find more information?
Listed below are a few websites where you can find additional information. If you need more information about scholarships, we suggest visiting some of these websites. USA.gov – Scholarships and Fellowships – National Science Foundation USA.gov – Grants and Funding Information Center (Includes financial aid) USA.gov – Education Grants USA . gov/College_Grants.
6) Keep updated on deadlines and awards
If you’re interested in applying for scholarships, you may feel like it’s something you can put off until later—after all, why apply now if your future plans could easily change? But it’s important to keep updated on deadlines and awards even if your plans don’t quite match up yet. Why? Scholarships are highly competitive, so by keeping updated on what is available and when applications are due, you increase your chances of being able to apply when it’s most convenient for you.
7) Do your research before starting your application
It’s always important to do your research before applying for anything, but it’s especially true when it comes to applying for a scholarship. You want to make sure you apply for scholarships that are related to your major and career goals and in fields you’re passionate about. Most scholarships have very specific qualifications and submission guidelines, so make sure you read them carefully before submitting an application..
8) Choose your application wisely
There are many scholarship applications out there, some of which provide better opportunities than others. When choosing a scholarship application, be sure that it is coming from an organization with a reputation for high-quality selection processes and reasonable deadlines. There’s no sense in investing time into an application if you don’t think you have any chance of winning. Also, look at how much work is required on your end. Some scholarships ask for more than just your basic contact information—they may want letters of recommendation or essays about why you deserve their award. Be aware of what type of commitment each application requires before applying.
9) Show passion in your application, but be realistic
If you get accepted, you’ll be studying in one of the most expensive cities in America. Work hard and give yourself enough time to save up, or work part-time during college (or summer school) so that you don’t end up completely broke during your first few months there. Show passion in your application, but be realistic. Remember: don’t get too attached to any program until you find out if you got accepted!
10) Get letters of recommendation
A lot of scholarship applications require that you submit letters of recommendation from teachers or other professionals. Be sure you get these letters early so that your recommenders have enough time to write up great endorsements. If your letters are late, chances are slim that you’ll be considered by some of these scholarships. Also, make sure that any deadlines are within reason and aren’t unreasonable—you don’t want to rush through things at the last minute if it means compromising quality! You should also know that many scholarship programs will ask for transcripts (or academic records) as part of their application process. You should ask your guidance counselor about what kinds of documents you need to supply and when they need them by. The sooner you do, the better off you’ll be!